The Moderator, Bonnie Reed, Fine Arts Librarian, Texas Tech University, began the session by explaining that it was the second part of a two part program. Designed and sponsored by the Women and Art Round Table, the program began at the 24th Annual Conference in Miami with a session entitled "Latin American Women Artists, Their Contributions to 29th Century Art", which emphasized the contribution of professionally trained women artists from South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico and Miami, in particular. In contrast, the San Antonio session concentrated primarily on Hispanic women artists living and working in the Southwestern United States, north of the Mexico border.
The first panelist was Dr. Don Bacigalupi, Director and Chief Curator of the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston. In his presentation entitled "Over the Margins: Contemporary Women Artists of the Southwest" Dr. Bacigalupi, introduced the audience to large number of artists and highlighted, in his words, "the innovative technical and material advances made by women artists in the past twenty years, and the massive move of these artists, once marginalized, into the mainstream of art world attention." He began by showing works by Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the most influential 20th-century women artists working in the Southwest. Clearly, O'Keeffe influenced several generations of artists worldwide due to the unique interaction with landscape presented in her works through simplification and geometrification, as well as her metaphorical way of presenting the female body. Women artists who followed in O'Keeffe's footsteps, then forged paths of their own included Agnes Martin, who within a framework of rigid geometry applies minimalism and a more direct and human approach to landscape, and Melissa Miller, "a facile, gifted, capable handler of paint" whose paintings deal mostly with anamorphicized animals. Bacigalupi also showed art by Suzanne Paquette, who works most often on plywood, burning, gauging, carving, and painting the surface to create a more than two-dimensional surface on which she mixes man-made and natural elements; Margarita Urquiza, a San Antonio painter who melds a variety of Western, Non-Western, and Pre-Columbian images and decorative motifs to create constructivist-type compositions; and Jill Bedgood, whose "Oracle" installation created for a local exhibition incorporated elements of sound. Also shown were works by Celia Alvarez Muņoz, whose very personal room-sized installations often include multilingual imagery; Gael Stack, a Houston painter and teacher who works with a very lush palette creating dense fields upon which she adds layers of written and visual "languages"; Deborah Maverick-Kelly, a University of Houston faculty member who paints traditional, stylized, yet realistic interiors that are narrative and full of iconographic imagery; Rachel Hecker, also faculty at the University of Houston whose paintings include a layering of pop and other 'dated' motifs in which one may read deeper narrative meaning; and Robin Dru Germany, who appropriates images from 1950's women's magazines, incorporating them with text into large, rather witty, three-dimensional photographic images. Bacigalupi concluded his presentation by showing works by Beverly Penn, who creates large-scale installations; Holly Moe, a San Antonio artist who works with industrial carpeting, creating rather cartoon-like, mosaic-like, two-dimensional works infused with tongue-in-cheek, feminist humor; Elizabeth McGrath, a young sculptor whose works present an uncomfortable combination of seductive aesthetic with abject references to the female form; Kate Petley, who works with found objects as well as manufactured objects to create large-scale works that speak of the relationship between man and nature; and Anita Valencia, a San Antonio artist who is creating very important yet overlooked artworks utilizing recycled objects.
The speaker scheduled next, Chris Cowden, the Executive Director for the Center for Women & Their Work, was unable to appear but, instead, sent Jill Bedgood, an Austin artist and former member of the Center's Executive Board who is currently serving on the Center's Artist Advisory Council. Bedgood presented a brief history of the Center for Women & Their Work, including an explanation of its mission and examples of some of the exhibitions and projects it has sponsored. The Center was formed in 1977 by three women artists "who were resolved to bring the quality and diversity of women artists to the attention of Texas audiences." Upon its incorporation in 1978, the Center began to plan programming that "would seek to promote greater recognition and understanding of women's contributions to culture; provide financial and technical support for artists; and present innovative performances and exhibitions which reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of this region." Although the Center does not specifically feature Hispanic women artists, it does showcase the art of women working predominantly in Texas in the fields of dance, theater, music, literature, visual art, and film. The Center has, over the years, financially supported over 1,200 regional and nationally known artists, making it possible for them to participate in over 140 visual art exhibitions, 10 international film festivals, nearly 80 dance and theater events, 16 touring exhibitions, 130 workshops, and 7 publications. In this last year, fifty percent of the over $90,000 paid out went to African American, Asian American, or Latina artists. The Center offers year-round information and referral services for member-artists including a slide-file of each artist's current works, and coordinates art tours, in-school performances, workshops, and projects for Austin school children and their teachers. Despite the fact that Texas ranks third in the U.S. in terms of its number of artist residents, it ranks 48th in terms of its funding of the arts, therefore the Center, which is unique in the region, has become an important asset for the Texas arts community.
The third speaker was photographer/artist Kathy Vargas, currently the Director of the Visual Arts Program for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Vargas, a native of San Antonio, has shown her work both nationally and internationally via numerous one-person exhibitions and participation in group shows including "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation" and "From Media to Metaphor: Art about AIDS." Her work is currently traveling nationally in the exhibit "Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry" for which she received a commission from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Vargas says of her work, "most of my work has been about complements and dualities: life/death; horror/beauty; mortality/resurrection/remembrance. Set in this context death is simply a part of the cycle of life; dying is the completion of living. Being aware of death makes life more intense." Vargas acknowledge the influence in her work and philosophy the influences of Mexican and Mexican American culture, but also cited the importance of her own personal experiences. This was evident in the works she did for the "Hospice" exhibition for which she created a series of works commemorating the life and death of a good friend. More recently she created a series of rather ghostly portraits of friends in which she dealt with the idea of coming and going reflected the phrase "until I no longer see you, until I see you again." Vargas concluded her discussion of her work by showing a humorous piece that represented her interpretation of Texas history incorporating her own childhood images of the meaning of the events surrounding the Alamo.
The fourth and final panelist was the painter Lilian Garcia-Roig, currently an Assistant Professor of Studio Art for painting and drawing at The University of Texas at Austin. Garcia-Roig presented her work and philosophies in chronological, autobiographical context, explaining that, from very early in her life she had strived for a combination of realism and lush abstract expressionism in her work. She was strongly influenced by the works of John Singer Sargent, Roger Winter, Wayne Thiebaud, John Alexander, Gerhard Richter, Melissa Miller, Fairfield Porter, Frank Auerbach, and Lucian Freud. She mused that she had really been 'into' color, but had been told in college that color wasn't 'in'. During her participation in the 9-week Skowhegan painting program she became enamored of the white trees in the forested areas of the Northeastern U.S. She began painting woodsy landscapes and, upon her return to Texas, began hunting for wooded areas in Texas that were reminiscent of New England. Surprisingly enough, she found quite a few little niches to which she travels regularly to paint. Garcia-Roig says about her work, "Essential to the feel of my work is the complexity of the scene being represented. Rather than attempting to simplify the image to create order, I instead embrace that complexity, to give in to it, follow where it leads, and then seek an order and clarity as part of the process of fixing the inevitable 'failed' result." Most recently Garcia-Roig has begun exploring her interest in Velasquez and Pre-Columbian art, combining imagery from each and trying confront and combine the illusion of the painted image with the reality of the paint medium.
Following the presentations by the panelists, only a brief amount of time remained. However, the artist-speakers were able to stay beyond the scheduled time in order to continue more intimate discussions of their work with several of the audience members.
Corcoran Gallery of Art